This is the question of a scholar of the law to Jesus, but it is also our question. It is the very question that leads to the parable of the good Samaritan. As Jesus ends the parable, He asks who was the victim’s neighbor. The answer is very important. “The one who treated him with mercy.” – [Luke 10:37]
So, I would contend that our neighbors are all of those we are capable of treating with mercy. Indeed, Jesus’ command to “Go and do likewise” seems to make it rather apparent. Who are well capable of treating with mercy, then? Everyone we interact with, both in person and in other ways like email and social media.
But our capability of treating others with mercy is not limited to just those we interact with. It also extends to all of those that we can affect by our chooses. If I choose to steal a random car, I am not treating the owner of the car with mercy, though I have not interacted with that person directly.
Rules and laws also provide a way of treating others with mercy. There are rules at school and policies at work that are instituted by people who may never meet or otherwise interact with those subject to the rules or policies. Still, those instituting the rules or policies should do so with mercy.
But even further upstream are those who put the rules and policy makers into their position of authority. Even though they may not have made the rules or policies, they are responsible for those rules and policies to the point that they knew the rules or policies the person would make.
That may seem pretty extreme, but what if you knew that by voting for Hitler you would be refusing mercy for the Jews? What if you knew that by voting for Abraham Lincoln you would be granting mercy to slaves? Not every vote that we make can take or give as much mercy as these votes did, but we should not disregard our vote as a way to show mercy to others.
In both of those cases (Hitler and Lincoln), the personhood of certain people was at stake. With personhood, comes rights. I would contend that abortion is the new personhood issue. There are 4.4 million confirmed pregnancies in the US every year. That means 4.4 million children are denied any rights until they are born or in some cases reach a certain gestational age.
Who is your neighbor and how will you show your neighbor mercy?